“I ask only to serve,” says McGill’s former Principal
By Neale McDevitt
Former McGill Principal David Johnston was installed as Canada’s 28th Governor General in a ceremony on Parliament Hill on Oct.1. Johnston took his oath of office in the plush red Senate chamber under the watchful eyes of a host of dignitaries, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, former prime ministers, former governors-general and nine justices of the Supreme Court.
McGill Principal Heather Munroe-Blum was also in attendance.
In his address, Johnston, who served as McGill Principal from 1979 to 1994, outlined the “pillars” of his mandate: “To support families and children, to reinforce learning and innovation, and to encourage philanthropy and volunteerism.
“I see my role as a bridge in bringing people of all backgrounds and ages together to create a smart and caring nation, a nation that will inspire not just Canadians but the entire world,” he continued.
In his introductory remarks, Harper praised Johnston for being a “guardian” of philanthropy and community service, noting that for Johnston serving others is “not merely an option, it is a duty and obligation of the heart, that honour compels a man to accept.”
Johnston reinforced the importance of service by quoting from the innagural address of Georges P. Vanier, who was installed as Governor General in 1959. “In our march forward in material happiness, let us not neglect the spiritual threads in the weaving of our lives,” said Johnston. “If Canada is to attain the greatness worthy of it, each of us must say, ‘I ask only to serve.’ ”
Following the ceremony, Johnston and his wife Sharon rode to their new residence at Rideau Hall in a horse-drawn carriage, stopping to lay a bouquet of red and white roses at the National War Memorial. For the last leg of their ride to Rideau Hall, their seven grandchildren joined the Johnstons aboard the carriage.